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New Business Models for University Presses

The importance of collaboration

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 University presses have long collaborated in a variety of ways: among themselves for business functions such as book distribution; with foreign publishers, museums, and other cultural institutions for co-publishing; and increasingly with libraries and other groups within their own universities, often for digital publishing projects. In addition, as already noted, presses outsource a variety of functions to commercial vendors, a practice long common in book and journal production, and now extending to technology functions as well. Such collaborations are good business practice, allowing presses to focus on what they do best while looking to partners for functions that lie outside presses’ core competencies. Partnerships are also important for functions that benefit from economies of scale, such as warehousing and distribution. In an increasingly digital world, collaboration has become even more important because of the specialized skills required, the rapid pace of technological change, the level of investment required in technical systems, and advantages of scale.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Distribution systems continue to be the major area of collaboration, primarily for print, but increasingly for digital publications as well. Harvard, Yale, and MIT are partners in a distribution company, as are Princeton and the University of California. The University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Cornell, UNC, and Texas A&M Presses all distribute smaller university and other nonprofit presses. Chicago now offers digital archiving services in addition to print distribution, through BiblioVault. While not itself a hosting platform, BiblioVault maintains digital files for clients and converts them to the multiple formats required by commercial e-book vendors.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 2 A number of other presses have partnered with their campus libraries to host their digital books, as detailed above. These press-library partnerships are all limited to open access publishing, however. Libraries are committed to open access as part of their mission, and digital library systems, for the most part, do not accommodate the kind of business systems necessary to sell content (although most can restrict access to a particular group, and Michigan’s MPublishing program has the capacity to sell print editions of titles in its collections). A notable exception is Johns Hopkins, where Project MUSE began in 1993 as a joint project of the Press and Library. Supported initially by grants from the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, MUSE began as a project to publish JHU Press journals online in 1995. Beginning in 2000, MUSE expanded into a hosting platform that now offers titles for more than 100 publishers. What started as a press-library experiment is now a business operated by the Press with the ongoing assistance of the library. It has been self-supporting for over ten years.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 As presses move more extensively into selling digital books and potentially other forms of content, they are likely to establish partnerships with commercial vendors, or large, well- established nonprofits like MUSE and JSTOR, to host their content. This is a long-established practice among university presses publishing journals.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 1 Editorial collaboration traditionally has involved either partnerships between two publishers to split sales territories for a given title or partnerships between a museum, research institute, or other institution and a press, in which the non-publishing institution creates the content and the press produces, markets, and sells the resulting books. Such arrangements are ways for presses to acquire books that would otherwise not be available to them and for the partner organization to gain access to services and/or markets outside their normal scope of business. More recently, some university presses have begun working with other cultural institutions in their regions to develop and publish content in new ways; notable examples include a series of online state encyclopedias such as the New Georgia Encyclopedia (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org), a joint project of the University of Georgia Press, Georgia Humanities Council, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor. Several other states and regions are working on similar projects, usually involving partnerships among presses, libraries, and other cultural institutions. These include Encyclopedias of New Jersey, Greater Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, the Midwest, Tennessee, Appalachia, North Carolina, the South, New York City, New York State, and New England, among others.13

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Recent examples of intra-university collaboration include Quadrant at the University of Minnesota (http://www.ias.umn.edu/quadrant.php) and Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement at the University of North Carolina (https://lcrm.lib.unc.edu/blog), both launched with grants from the Mellon Foundation. In both cases, presses are working with research centers on their campuses to develop and publish work in fields that are particular academic strengths for the universities. Quadrant, which joins the University of Minnesota Press with the University’s Institute for Advanced Study, is designed to develop the Press’s publishing program in four areas of academic emphasis at the University and to engage the Press directly in the intellectual life of its parent institution. The project brings prospective authors to campus for term-length research fellowships and shorter week-length visits, during which they present, discuss, and workshop their works-in-progress with Minnesota faculty.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement, a collaboration between UNC Press, the UNC-Chapel Hill Library, the Center for Civil Rights, and the Southern Oral History Program at the Center for the Study of the American South, plans to publish in both print and digital formats, with the library hosting digital content. The UNC project also has as one of its goals developing new business models for disseminating content. These projects bring the particular strengths of different parts of the university to bear on disseminating research in areas of importance to the university, in a manner that is more highly focused and coordinated than would be the case if each unit were working separately.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 In a different type of project, University of California Press and California Digital Library (CDL) jointly launched UC Publishing Services (UCPubS) in 2008 to offer online hosting of open access content, print on demand, marketing, and print sales and distribution services to small publishing programs maintained by research units throughout the 10 campuses of the UC system (http://www.ucpress.edu/partners.php?p=ucpubs). Editorial development and file creation is managed and supported financially by the individual publishing programs (in some cases, with consultation from the Press.) Online hosting by the CDL is provided at no charge, consistent with the CDL’s mission (and University funding). Revenue from print sales is shared between the publishing unit and UC Press. This program is financially self-supporting based on a mix of institutional support and print sales; that reliance on print raises the issue of the future sustainability of the program. Harvard University Press offers similar printing, sales, and distribution services to campus-based clients at Harvard and elsewhere.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 All of these initiatives are part of a broader direction in university press publishing, which emphasizes a closer alignment between press and parent institution. This approach was identified and recommended as a direction for university presses in the 2007 ITHAKA report.[14]

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Collaboration across presses—rather than within a single university—for editorial purposes has been much less common. While the advantages of collaboration on business functions has been evident for decades, editorial partnerships are more difficult, because there are few if any economies of scale in editorial work and because university presses do have their competitive rivalries, if not on the scale of commercial publishers. Recently, however, some presses have undertaken experiments in editorial collaboration, spurred by a program sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. Notable among these experiments are the Archeology of the Americas Digital Monograph Initiative (AADMI), based at the University Press of Colorado, and Ethnomusicology Multimedia (EM), based at Indiana University. Both projects move beyond publication of traditional monographs to include a variety of media, in fields where the dissemination of scholarship benefits enormously from such multimedia presentation.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 1 Led by the University Press of Colorado, AADMI, which also includes the presses at Texas A&M and at the Universities of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, and Utah, intends to develop and publish a new generation of enhanced monographs that will incorporate multimedia data sets that support the underlying scholarly analyses and interpretation and are made possible by digital publication (http://www.archaeologyoftheamericas.com). These enhancements may include data tables, dynamic links to databases, digital still and moving image files (such as color GIS maps, 3-D laser scans, rotatable objects, and video clips), and supplementary text. Publications will be delivered digitally in a platform-agnostic format that permits, within reasonable limits, the search, display, updating, analysis, and downloading of digital monographs and their associated multimedia data sets. In order to achieve platform independence the presses are working to create a shared, XML- first workflow that will incorporate the appropriate digital enhancements and can be repurposed for publication through multiple consumer channels, e.g., print, online, Kindle, iPad, PDF, etc.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 1 In addition to funding first books in ethnomusicology, a key component of the EM collaborative is the implementation of a website for audiovisual material that complements or illustrates traditional monographs. An alliance of the university presses at Indiana, Kent State, and Temple, EM will include a web portal where peer-reviewed audio, video, and static image content may be uploaded and annotated by authors and publishers and then moved to a publicly accessible website. The three presses are working with Indiana University’s Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis Digital Archive (EVIADA) to construct the site and take it live by late 2011 (http://www.eviada.org). Using tools developed in the construction of its archive, EVIADA is building an annotators’ workbench online (AWB) where authors can upload audio or video content for editing and annotation and key them to corresponding references in the text. At this writing, the AWB is being use-tested by ethnomusicologists for feedback and modification with the goal of making the addition and annotation of material an intuitive process.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 EM’s public site will include bibliographic data with thumbnails of books and multimedia content keyed to specific titles and labeled by corresponding page references. “Buy book” buttons will link users to each publisher’s e-commerce site. By the time the Mellon implementation grant ends in 2015, the EM collaborative expects to add content from both Mellon-funded and non-Mellon- funded ethnomusicology publications and will invite publishers outside the initial three presses to add their titles and audiovisual content for a modest hosting fee or through a revenue-sharing arrangement. While not a goal of the current project, the presses have discussed including e-books on the EM site, and Indiana University’s commitment to mass storage will enable EM to persist indefinitely as an online resource. By expanding EM to be the “go to” place for published ethnomusicology research, as well as possibly adding content in related fields such as ethnic studies, musicology, and folklore, the presses hope to make EM sustainable over the long term.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 It is significant that these editorial collaborations, whether involving multiple entities within a single university or multiple presses at several universities, include new approaches to publishing—where a range of skills and/or greater scale is an advantage. In their varied ways, these programs are responses to the changing landscape of publishing. They also require new approaches to generating revenue in order to be financially sustainable. Both AADMI and EM plan, in later stages, to host content from other publishers as one means of generating revenue.

  • [13] For a comprehensive review of existing projects and issues involving in developing and sustaining them, see Doug Barnett, et al., Toward a Community of Practice: Initial Findings on Best Practices for Digital Encyclopedias (American Association for State and Local History, draft 8/26/2009).
  • [14] Brown, et al., University Publishing in a Digital Age, http://www.ithaka.org/ithaka-s-r/research/university-publishing-in-a-digital-age.
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    Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/sustaining/the-importance-of-collaboration/?replytopara=14